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Google Home and Home Mini voice-controlled speakers will arrive in stores Apr 20

By Ng Chong Seng - on 18 Apr 2018, 10:00am

Google Home and Home Mini voice-controlled speakers will arrive in stores Apr 20

Google has announced today that it’s launching its Google Home and Google Home Mini smart speakers in Singapore. Starting this Friday, April 20, the voice-activated speakers will be available at StarHub, Courts, and Challenger retail stores islandwide, as well as online via Hachi.tech and the new Singapore Google Store. Consumers will be able to pre-order the smart speakers through select retailers today.

The regular Home has a sticker price of S$189, and the Mini is going for S$79. The Home only comes in White Slate (white top with gray base), while the Mini is available in Chalk (gray), Charcoal (black), and Coral (a pinkish shade of orange). In broad strokes, the Home Mini has most of the capabilities of the bigger Home. The key differentiator is their driver config: the Mini uses a single 40mm driver, while the Home sports a 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch passive radiators. This simply means the Home is the better sounding of the two.

Protip #1: If the Mini in Coral is your thing, you can only get it through the Google Store; none of the retailers would be carrying this color.

Protip #2: Google is also giving a free Mini for those who buy a full-price Pixel 2 XL phone (S$1,398) on the Google Store.

 

What is Google Home, hah?

For the uninitiated, the Google Home and Home Mini are voice-controlled speakers powered by Google Assistant. With a simple “OK Google” wake word, you can use Home to get answers, turn up the music, manage your everyday tasks, or control smart devices around your home. This is the same Google Assistant you’ve on the Pixel phones and other Android devices, which means it’s easy to pick up right where you left off as you roam from device to device.

On the services front, the Google Home speakers work with Spotify (free and premium) and TuneIn Radio. They also work with the Chromecast dongle and Cast-enabled devices, so you can stream shows (e.g., Netflix and YouTube) and music on your TV or other connected speakers over Wi-Fi. The commands are fairly straightforward: for example, just say, “Hey Google, play ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix on my TV.”

The search giant is also promoting the smart speakers’ ability to tell you the top headlines or the latest on a certain category of news. In order to give relevant results, Google has added support for local news sources, such as Channel NewsAsia, The Straits Times, Money FM 89.3, The Business Times, and Business Insider Singapore.

All this and more can be set up through the Google Home app, which is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

“Actions”, basically third-party apps that run via Google Assistant, are supported, too. (Just say, “Hey Google, talk to XXX.”) At launch, supported Actions include those from Bus Uncle, National Library Board, OCBC Bank, StarHub, and Singapore Airlines. For example, you can say, “OK Google, talk to OCBC about retirement planning”, and Google Assistant will reply with leading questions to eventually calculate the retirement amount required. As the Actions on Google developer program is now live in Singapore, we expect the number of local-based Actions to increase over time. For brand owners reading this, consider Actions as yet another way to reach out to more users.

The Google Home devices can also recognize different voices. Called “Voice Match”, up to six people can link their accounts to a single Google Home device, and Home is able to match each account to the respective user’s voice and give customized responses. So when you ask for your daily brief, you’ll be getting your personalized agenda, instead of your spouse’s. Or when you ask Netflix to resume playback of an unfinished Stranger Things episode, it should pick up where you left off instead of starting all over. For those wondering, Google Assistant already supports Singaporean English since November last year.

Last but not least, the Google Home devices can be used to control smart home gadgets, such as smart plugs and light bulbs. While Google touts support for more than 1,500 smart devices from over 225 brands, know that many of these Home-compatible devices aren't sold here in Singapore. Some smart home gadgets that play nice with Google Home and are readily available here include Philips’ Hue lights, TP-Link’s smart plugs and Wi-Fi-enabled bulbs, iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaners, Ring’s video doorbells, and Netgear’s Arlo security cameras.

With this launch, Google has become the first major voice assistant player to officially sell its smart speakers here. Amazon, despite bringing its Prime subscription here just this past December, has yet to launch any of its Alexa-driven Echo speakers locally. Apple, which opened its Apple Orchard Road store in May 2017, has also yet to sell its Siri-driven HomePod speaker in Singapore.

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